Effective communication is vital to a successful manager-employee relationship. Without it, miscommunication and misunderstandings can run rampant between them. There’s no set rule for which method you should use to communicate with your boss. It depends on her preference and what's best for the situation.
The Straightforward Approach
If your boss prefers one communication method and you apply another, she might express her disappointment verbally to you or silently hold it against you. To prevent either scenario, go to her and ask how she prefers to communicate. Explain that to help you do your best work, and to ensure you are both on the same page, you need to know which channel she’s most comfortable with. Your boss might respond with one preferred method or a combination of channels, such as in person and by phone and email, depending on the situation. Make sure you completely understand what she prefers.
Examining Your Boss’ Patterns
You might be able to determine the best communication method by observing your boss’ communication patterns. For example, if she uses email only in situations that require paper trail, and the phone for everything else, then do the same. Regardless of the method, ensure it works for you both. If it doesn’t, pose a solution. For example, if she rarely communicates in writing, when necessary send her an email to confirm what she verbally said. Simply explain to her that following up in writing makes it easier for you to comply with her instructions.
If you’re not sure how to communicate with your boss in specific situations, either call her on the phone or approach her in person. Whereas phone and in-person communication allow a personalized touch, the tone of an email or instant message can be difficult to detect and might be misconstrued. For example, if you have an ongoing problem with a difficult coworker, discuss the issue with your boss in person and follow up by email. Approach her in person as well if you have ideas that could help improve the communication between you. For example, you might suggest that using instant messaging for quick requests is less distracting than the phone and faster than email.
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
You may use the popular Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which is based on psychotherapist Carl Jung’s personality types, to help you better communicate with your boss. The indicator has four groups of opposite personality types: extroversion versus introversion, sensing versus intuition, thinking versus feeling, and judging versus perceiving. By examining the indicator’s definitions for each characteristic, you can decipher your boss’s personality. If you and your boss have opposite personalities, try to adapt to her communication style. For example, if you are a quick responder but your boss tends to respond slowly, give her pertinent information ahead of time.
- ABC News: The Best Way to Communicate in the Workplace
- American Health Information Management Association: Weighing the Pros and Cons of IM: Instant Messaging Offers Instant Conveniences, Instant Complications
- Berney Associates: Leveraging Effectiveness With the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
- CPP, Inc: Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Career Report
- Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images